Junior Josh Orhin, co-president of Harambee club, was fully aware of the stereotypes and assumptions that members of the Knox community might have about Harambee club.
“Generally, when you hear Harambee or you hear ‘African club’ you think that it’s just African students, but it’s not. Harambee is very diverse. We have people from different races, backgrounds and socio-economic statuses. Everyone is welcome,” Orhin said.
He wanted to showcase not just the diversity of Harambee club, but the diversity of Knox’s campus and the greater Galesburg community as well.
“I feel like it forwards the school’s diversity agenda and inclusiveness as well. We want to make sure everyone is being included in something, so people don’t feel isolated and so people feel welcomed,” Orhin said.
Orhin, along with co-president of Harambee and sophomore Ravie Boungou, decided to slightly alter Harambee’s annual African show in order to incorporate other cultures. They decided to do this by choosing a theme that would not just resonate with African students on campus, but with everyone who chooses to listen.
“Our theme this year is Kitoko, which originates from the Congo. It’s in the Kikongo language meaning beauty or beautiful. So we’re celebrating not only the beauty in [Harambee] but we’ve also invited other clubs in our community to celebrate the beauty they have in their cultures as well,” Boungou said.
Harambee’s week of Kitoko began with a kick-off talk on Monday, followed by a cooking workshop, Adrinkra symbol-making, an African dance workshop and a business fair throughout the week. Everything was leading up to Harambee’s dinner and African show on Saturday. The performance showcased beauty, or Kitoko, in every way possible. “Beauty means culture,” said sophomore and event speaker Mae Moronfulu. Many cultures were represented through dance, song, fashion and flags. MEChA, Able and Lo Nuestro were a few of the cultural clubs to perform alongside Harambee club. The show was hosted by Nigerian comedian Mr. Cocoyam, who began the show by saying, “Community means there are no spaces,” and asked all the audience members to move forward so the community of the show could be tightly-knit and supportive.
Boungou agreed that representing different cultures is a thing of beauty, and a privilege that Knox students have.
“I think because we’re such a diverse [campus], we all bring different cultures but we shouldn’t be naive and not acknowledge the stereotypes that come and the ‘baggage’ that sometimes comes with having diverse cultures. So like with Africa, there are many negative stereotypes about that continent in general and the various countries in it, so it’s important to also be like, ‘Yes, there are “stereotypes” . . . but there’s also this beauty that we have.’ Showcasing that is very importantÉ History depicts African dance as savage and primitive, but it’s very beautiful and it’s something we should celebrate,” Boungou said. Boungou led the African dance workshop and performed at the show on Saturday.
Students who participated in the show felt inspired by the theme of Kitoko and what it stands for in today’s climate.
“I love the theme . . . I like that all the themes they choose are empowering in some manner. I think it works really well that with all the different political stances, everyone can still find beauty within,” senior Chava Solberg and member of Harambee club said.
“I think one of the cool things about it is that it’s not only the beauty within me but it’s the beauty within us,” sophomore Acacia Berg said. Berg danced in the show. “I think celebrating the beauty within a culture and a people in general is a really special thing that is cool to bring to Knox because instead of just accepting each other, which is obviously an important first step, [we are] celebrating each other and making each other feel welcome, which is very important.”